There’s something about the fresh spring air and sunshine that inspires us all to throw open the windows and beat, scrub and wash wintertime’s dinginess away, isn’t there? Our mothers probably did this and called it spring cleaning. Now that I’m a mom myself, it tends to be one more thing to add to my already-too-long list of things to do! I have to admit, though, that I don’t mind very much because it is nice to have the house and yard looking so crisp and fresh.
My children are getting older, and I intend to commission their help over the next few weekends as I whip the house into shape. I have been known to be a bit lax in times past, allowing them to watch too much TV (to avoid making a mess!) while I swept and vacuumed and dusted around them. In reality, I should have been putting them to work from the get-go! Ah, hindsight is 20/20… but it’s not too late for my kids, or for yours, either, if you have also tackled spring cleaning on your own. Here are some tips and hints for delegating some seasonal chores; you know what they say about many hands making light work!
* Start with a pep talk and a promise for fun later. Explain what you’re setting out to do: getting the house and yard ready for spring! Give them something to look forward to when it’s all done: a “welcome spring” party, a sleepover, a special meal out. Remember that you are asking them to do some extra work and that the knowledge that the floors are cleaner does not have the same impact on them as it does on you; you’ll need to reward them in more tangible ways!
* Keep your expectations realistic. While you may have knocked out spring cleaning in one major marathon in the past, this is not feasible when kids are concerned. A couple of hours at a time, spread out over a few Saturdays, is probably more reasonable.
* Assign age-appropriate chores. Keep safety in mind, and try not to frustrate your younger ones with jobs that are too difficult.
* Assign fun chores! At the same time, remember that what you find mundane might be fun for the kids. Things like weeding, washing the car and taking every book out of the bookcase and dusting are actually entertaining for children… until the novelty wears off, anyway (or until it’s time to put the books back)!
The chores that you have to do will be different from the jobs that I’ve chosen to do, but here’s what I’m planning on delegating to my kids (who are 11 and 8 years old):
- Washing and vacuuming the car. Scrubbing the car and playing with the hose are fun, particularly when the weather is warm enough to get wet! They don’t particularly like decluttering the car, but they do like using the hose attachment on the vacuum cleaner.
- Dusting. I’ll admit it, I tend to let the dust pile up. I know that feather dusters just spread dust into the air and onto the carpet, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make, because the kids will use them happily. I’ll be vacuuming later anyway, and no one here is allergic to dust, so no harm will be done.
- Organizing their own closets. Up until now, I’ve handled this chore, but the time has come for them to take it over. They can go through their winter clothing (and in Florida, it’s minimal!), pack away sweatshirts that will likely fit next year and fold up jeans and fitted shirts (which are nearly outgrown) to give away to friends or to the local thrift shop.
- Gardening. Here in the South, we start our gardens early. My daughter loves getting her hands dirty, so I’ve already put her to work transplanting tomato and pepper plants and watering them each day. As the weeks go by, I’ll also have her out there weeding.
- Yard work. My son, on the other hand, prefers to use whatever electric tools he can get his hands on. While I don’t think he’s old enough to mow the lawn, he can certainly use the weedwhacker! He’ll be out there trimming while my husband or I mow.
- Organize the Pantry. With the rising cost of food we are going to clean out our panty and stock it before prices go too high. Kids can help you take everything out of the panty while you check the dates to make sure it is not expired. Next, the kids can help you organize the food and then help you wipe down the shelves.
If your children are younger, they can still trail behind you with their own rags for washing and wiping. Little ones are at the right height for wiping out the shelves of the refrigerator or washing the front of the dishwasher or stove, for example.
How do you handle spring cleaning? Are you teaching your kids as you go along, and expecting them to help? What types of seasonal chores have you given them?